“Dole”

I still feel guilty about the fact that I will have to claim ESA and Housing Benefit for a while.  I realise I am lucky to live somewhere that temporarily “signing on” is possible and hate the idea of taking advantage of that.  But I have to accept that, for the time being, I am unfit to work.  Social workers and doctors don’t write notes about unfitness for fun.  I couldn’t cope with the M.A., a course of study in something that I really love.  A full-time, full-on job could genuinely be dangerous for me.  I remember Amsterdam, how the high let me whizz through data entry until the low made me late, drunk and self-injured every day before work.  I know I wasn’t on medication back then, and that once things are stabilised properly I will be capable of working even full-time.  For now, though, I don’t feel able.

Like so many people, I have to let myself learn that that’s okay.  That to prioritise wellness over perceived usefulness is okay, that it is not normal to literally work yourself to death just to live up to expectations.  Again, it all comes back to expectation and its weight.  I know that through the year I tried to find work in Edinburgh I wasn’t really fit to, and that berating myself constantly wasn’t helping. I worked intermittently and between times sat staring into space, unable to do simpler things.  My jobs were “easy”- mopping, sweeping, moving chairs- and I couldn’t do them.  I was not unwilling but unable.

It would have made more sense to admit not defeat but the need for help, and try to get signed off.  But They don’t make it easy.  I was frightened and tired and unhappy and the forms daunted me to the point where I am still in debt for Council Tax I don’t think I really owe.  I think so many people probbaly find themselves in this position and in much, much worse positions.  The doctors who assess your fitness to work often contradict the opinion of psychiatrists and doctors who have known you a long time, assessed your needs more thoroughly and I don’t think that’s right.  Of course I understand the need for regulations, the need for confirmation that a person is unwell… I do.  But I also understand the need for help.

There we go, say it with me… I need help.

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8 thoughts on ““Dole”

  1. (((hugs))). I went through the whole ESA process last year. I hate being on benefits, never having claimed before I had my breakdown in 2008. But I know what’s best for maintaining my precarious mental health, and working in an unsuitable position just wouldn’t do me any good. Even working part-time at something I love is enough to wear me out (I was helping a friend for four weeks and was secretly glad when she said she didn’t need me anymore). I need the help of the welfare system and I hate being made to feel guilty because of it! People who don’t understand the nature of mental ill-health see me “thriving” in my current set-up and wonder why I don’t go and work at Tesco for 16 hours a week….sigh…
    I hope you give yourself the time you need to recover.

    • Exactly my feelings. I hope things improve for you and am glad if you are thriving in your set-up!! People don’t seem to understand, that being more well than usual while out of work doesn’t mean that you are fit to start working! It sounds like you have the same problems with accepting that you *need* benefits, and it seems as though sometimes others don’t realise exactly how crucial it is to treat mental illness in the same way as we would (or should) treat physical disability: with compassion, and with understanding- or with at least an attempt to understand!!!

  2. You are very brave, and I admire you. Both for admitting you need help and for getting the help you need. I’ve experienced much of what you write here – my husband’s depression, anxiety, panic, and ADHD kept him from working for many years, and it was a very long, unpleasant drama trying to get the right people to sign off on the fact that he had a disability. I wanted to scream at the government-appointed doctors when they refused to admit that he was truly medically unfit. If he’d had a couple of legs missing it they wouldn’t have balked for a moment. But because significant portions of his brain didn’t work – and you can’t see that – they could get away with pretending there was nothing wrong with him. Best of luck to you. Hoping the down time will be a time of healing for you and that you can soon move on in health.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m really sorry to hear about your husband, that’s awful! And exactly the kind of thing I’m worried about at the moment, especially with the ridiculous stories that have been in the news lately. I hope things are okay with you.

  3. I am in the same situation .Finding that I can’t work so need to go on governement benefits.We have really struggled since my eldest child has moved out.We had his board money helping with the rent and electricity etc, but now we have $500 less a month and refuse to ask for help from family.We want to get through this ourselves, I feel like it is my fault that my husband can’t work, as he has to drive for me, and remind me about meds and monitor behaviours. I LOATHE the appointments for sickness benefits when they make you answer verbal questions about your ability to do certain things.You end up saying no to everything, and leave feeling such a useless person. I have to say No, as they can’t write, depends on the hour, and what mood that might have..rapid cycling is so hard to describe to government form fillers.When you are manic you tell them you can start work ASAP, but 2 hours later be hiding in your house with a panic attack and cant talk as you are too depressed about not being a real person. ranting now…sorry. 🙂

    • No, I know exactly what you mean. Mania makes you think you can take over the world, and you don’t get the help you need because you are too busy being determined and feeling useful! Then the low hits…

      • oh, I so agree! 100% I hate those silly interviews re work or going to the doctor to fill in the sickness forms to keep you off work, depending on the mood, I can be full of optimism and over confidence one minute and then the next day, after swearing I need to be out, I need to find a job ASAP, I have crashed and can’t even lift my head to nod yes or no. Stupid !

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